In 2015, the United Nations set a target for 2030 for everyone to have access to a safe water and sanitation service. For the drinking water component, it is a home, continuous and quality service. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people do not have this level of service nowadays. Among this 30% of the population, the disparities are very wide, sometimes even between districts of the same city. Concerning the issue of sanitation, including home toilets or wastewater management… etc., there are 4.5 billion people who do not have a secure service. 

    Water Shortage

     It is true that access to water is globally progressing, but targets have not been met yet in some southern countries. Sometimes we talk about ‘water stress’ or ‘shortage’ in other cases. For instance, in Jordan, which suffers very badly from a serious lack of water, there are 135 m3 per capita and per year against 2,500 m3 in France. It is then necessary to preserve the local resource and manage it well, by improving the management of existing networks, reducing leaks, avoiding fighting pollution, treating and reusing wastewater, sensitizing the households, and so on and so forth.

    Access to water represents a major challenge in terms of health, dignity and the fight against inequalities. Consumption of quality water is combined with local hygiene and significantly improves the risks associated with waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea or cholera. The latter are actually the second leading cause of infant mortality. For example, as soon as there is a discontinuity of service, there is a resurgence of cholera epidemics.

    Threats to Water Resource

    In the same context, population growth is important and will continue, especially in urban areas in southern countries. As a result, the demand for water will grow, too. In other words, the standard of living is increasing; more consumption, more industrial products, more meat, etc. it is noteworthy that the biggest consumer of water is agriculture, which accounts for 70% of withdrawals.

    What is more, the effects of climate change are considerable and create very significant tensions: such as increased droughts, eutrophication, violent rain events, salinization (with rising seawater), to name a few. Pollution is also a very serious threat. In this regard, 80% of wastewater in the world is rejected without treatment. Therefore, sanitation of water represents a priority. 

    Ways to Avoid ‘Water Conflicts’

    It is obviously clear that there will be worrisome tensions on this vital resource in some places around the world. Sometimes this conflict emerges within the national perimeter itself, between users like farmers and consumers. It is thus mandatory to work upstream to a good and fair distribution between the different users. In other cases, the resource is distributed among several countries, such as the Senegal River or the Niger River. So, it is important to increase a good knowledge of the resource; and then to plan what should be devoted to irrigation, hydroelectric production, drinking water and the like. On the whole, countries must agree upon master plans for water management to avoid conflicts.

    The governance issue has great and crucial importance. In Jordan, for instance, there is very little water but access is good; while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a lot of water but one in two does not have access to the resource.